In his latest ‘State of the Genre’ column, Martin Deer reacts to the reports that Christopher Nolan will oversee Warner Bros.’ DC movie universe….
I am, I can tell you, still in absolute shock at yesterday’s news. For anyone who has read my previous articles regarding Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the upcoming Man of Steel you will know that I am very much a fan. Despite being a lifelong fan of both characters however I have never been interested in a team up, and past articles have been vehemently against seeing a Justice League film as in my opinion the characters would be better suited to solo films, especially Batman given his more realistic nature.
So, I can tell you that my reaction yesterday morning when reading the reports that Chris Nolan would be returning, in a producer role, to help bring a World’s Finest film to life with his trilogy’s Batman, a.k.a Christian Bale, was essentially the same as Vader’s in Revenge of the Sith to being told Padme had passed away, as I bellowed out a massive cry of fear, despair and anger. But that was yesterday morning, and having mulled it over with friends yesterday and slept on it, I feel a lot more open to the prospect, and dare I say, I’m excited. I know this isn’t official yet, however Jett over at Batman-on-Film has pretty much confirmed it so this is as done of a deal as can be without Nolan’s actual signature on a contract.
The end of The Dark Knight Rises was, for me, nothing short of perfect. Fans can argue all day about “Batman wouldn’t quit”, but Nolan’s interpretation started out in Batman Begins with a very clear goal and Bruce expected to be Batman for only a short period of time. He achieved his goals, inspired new heroes for generations to come, and was finally able to let go of his burdens and pain and move on with his life. It was beautiful. My initial negative feelings towards yesterdays news centered chiefly around not wanting to see The Dark Knight Trilogy – and specifically that great ending – messed with. I didn’t want to see the Trilogy ruined. And, having slept on it, I don’t think it will be. Look at Star Wars for example – despite the Prequel Trilogy’s misgivings and extremely weak characterisations, the Original Trilogy still stands on its own and isn’t any lesser because of the PT. That being said, this is Christopher Nolan we are dealing with.
Let us get something out of the way first and foremost – this isn’t a reaction to Will Beall’s script being thrown out, this has been in the works for a long time. This has clearly been Warner’s primary goal for its DCU ambitions, and the rushed and terrible Will Beall script was clearly the backup plan. A plan which is no longer needed.
So between Nolan turning down a ‘Godfather’ of the DCU position last year and walking away from comic book properties, what happened? My guess – David S. Goyer. Goyer has been absolutely instrumental in all of The Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel. He convinced Nolan there was a story to tell and thus come back to make the The Dark Knight Rises, and he showed Nolan how to make a Superman film, which lead to Nolan making the call and getting Man of Steel green-lit. Goyer is the reason in my opinion. Yes Nolan ended his trilogy, but clearly Goyer has a story in mind that, rather than tarnishing The Dark Knight Trilogy, will enhance it. Make it something more.
Bruce no longer needs to be Batman; he has moved on, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t be Batman. Only that he is no longer controlled by it, as he’s taking pleasure in all aspects of his life now. Now imagine a story where Bruce is needed as Batman and dons the cape and cowl not because he is driven by a need to, but because he is needed. I think that story has great potential, and for those who said, “Batman wouldn’t quit”, well, you might just finally be pleased. Not only does this Superman / Batman film have the potential to be really fun, but with Nolan and Goyer on board, but it will have a reason to exist other than, “it’ll be cool”. This could be a film that helps further cement the Christian Bale Batman legacy. The trilogy then would have dealt with the arc of Bruce freeing himself from the pain and anger of the day his parents were killed and cementing a legacy within Gotham and his ‘need’ to be Batman, while the team up film would continue Bruce’s arc and show how he simply wants to be Batman. He isn’t ‘waiting for things to go bad again’, he is not controlled by that unhealthy need to be Batman anymore, he’s in a place where he simply wants to be Batman. And I quote:
“I chose this life.. and on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn’t that day. And tomorrow won’t be either.”
There is a great arc within all of this.
The Dark Knight Trilogy stands perfectly as it is on its own and the times when Bruce did hang up the cowl made sense and were in keeping with the portrayal Nolan gave. However, I do feel a team up film could enhance it by continuing Bruce’s arc, and Goyer presumably has gone to Nolan with a story and convinced him that it can too.
I still have many reservations about it, of course. Nolan’s Batman set itself in a realistic world. Yes it had some unrealistic elements, but it had the illusion of realism, and so to put Bale’s Batman up in the same film as a flying all-powerful being such as Superman feels very strange at the moment. And I know I am making a huge 180 on my feelings about this; I have said time and again that I hate the idea of Batman being on screen with other heroes, but I do trust Nolan and more importantly, I trust the team of Nolan and Goyer. They haven’t let me down yet, and I’m not going to start doubting them now. I am cautious, but I am genuinely excited about where this could go. Keep in mind, this is a Superman and Batman film, not Justice League – they are building to that – so they are not going to drop Bale’s Batman in to a world with Wonder Woman, and also bear in mind that Man of Steel will incorporate the same sort of realism as The Dark Knight Trilogy and will deal with a ‘first contact’ scenario as Goyer mentioned a few weeks back. So, it doesn’t at all seem like it could feel massively out of place; in fact, it sounds like the perfect set up.
I am genuinely surprised by my reaction to this. I never expected to be feeling this way about a DC team up, but as I have said, Nolan and Goyer have my trust and for the moment I am genuinely excited about what could be in store. Not only because I do think Nolan will take the opportunity to enhance Bruce Wayne’s story and make the trilogy even greater, but also because with him now ‘Godfathering’ all DCU projects, that means we are not far away from Flash and Wonder Woman solo films, which I have long wanted to see. It’s an exciting time.
Whether you are for this, against or undecided, we at least know that this will be handled respectfully, and hopefully we will be rewarded greatly for any trust we place in this project.